Text: Matthew 28:16-20
Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
There is a wonderful parallel between our Old Testament reading today and our Gospel reading. In our Old Testament reading we heard how God created the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them, the dry land, every green thing that grows on the earth, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, and, of course, people. God made man, human beings, “male and female He created them” it says in Genesis 1. The details of God creating people comes out in Genesis chapter 2, but before getting to that one other important detail comes out. God says to Adam and Eve, the man and the woman He has created, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
Then, in our Gospel reading today from Matthew 28 we hear words from Jesus shortly before He ascends into heaven. After He rose from the dead He told His the women at the tomb to tell the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. Well they went to Galilee and so did Jesus. He appeared to them on the top of a mountain and He said these words to them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
On the surface these two Biblical stories might not seem to have much in common, but there is a parallel here. In Genesis 1 God spoke to Adam and Eve and told them to have children, reproduce, fill the world with human beings. In Matthew 28 Jesus tells His disciples something very similar. He tells them to make disciples.
If we hold up these two Bible verses side by side it can help us get a better understanding of what they are both saying. (In general this is a great way to read the Bible especially when we run into tricky parts we don’t understand. Let the Bible explain itself!)
If we look that these two verses together we will get a better understanding of what Jesus means in Matthew 28. Often times those words from Matthew 28 are called the “great commission.” Jesus is commissioning His disciples, sending them out, to make more disciples. This passage gets thought about as a command, something that God has commanded us to do. There is some truth to that, this is something that God has commanded us to do. Ignoring that command and doing nothing would not be right. But, there is more happening here than God commanding us to do something.
In Genesis 1 when God said “be fruitful and multiply” was that a command or a blessing? God certainly used commanding sounding language (“be fruitful”… not “if you want/feel like it be fruitful…”) but is this actually a command? No, it’s not. It is a blessing. It says so right there in verse 28, “God blessed them,” it says, “and God said to them be fruitful and multiply…” These words are a blessing, a blessing bestowed on humanity that they are given the ability to have children, to pass on a little bit of themselves to future generations.
So, with that in mind, when Jesus says “Go and make disciples…” is it really a commandment or a blessing? In the same way that God blessed humanity with the ability to have children, Jesus is blessing His disciples here with the ability to create more disciples.
The first blessing that we have here is that we are blessed with the ability to share our faith with other people. This is not a burden that should wear us down or an obligation that hangs over our heads and discourages us. As disciples of Jesus we have the opportunity to make more disciples. Whether it is our own children, our friends, our co-workers, or anyone else we all have Jesus blessing to share what we believe with them.
The second blessing here is that Jesus has blessed us with the ability to become His disciples ourselves. You and I we are disciples of Jesus and disciples of the Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit when we were baptised. We are His disciples, His followers, His students, His sheep, His people. We are His. Baptism makes people, ordinary people like you and me, into disciples of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We saw this very thing happen right before our very eyes as Olivia joined the ranks of the disciples of Jesus standing there alongside each and every one of us who has been made into a disciple by baptism into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It may seem ridiculous that an infant as small as that could somehow be a disciple or follower of Jesus, she can’t speak, stand, or even hold her own head up, but that is what our God has done. He has made her, and the rest of us, His disciples through the water of baptism.
We seriously underestimate what a blessing it really is to be a disciple of Jesus. We take it for granted all the time. But, again, if we hold up what God says in Genesis 1 beside what Jesus says in Matthew 28 we will see what a tremendous blessing this is.
God formed Adam and Eve and the rest of us in order to be in a relationship with us. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. They were His people and He was their God. You could even say they were the first disciples. God openly invited Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, have children, make more disciples. But we know things in the Garden of Eden did not stay “very good.” Adam and Eve sinned. And then, when they were fruitful and multiplied, their children killed each other. By the time of Noah, God was sorry that He had created these people altogether. We know what happened in that story. And yet, God was not done with people.
God the Father would send the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to once and for all restore His creation to what it was meant to be, to bring back these lost and wayward creatures (you and me!) into a relationship with Him. By His death on the cross and rising from the tomb that is what this Son has done for us. As Jesus stood there on the mountain and said, “Go and make disciples…” the work was complete, the relationship was restored and now the good news could go out to all the earth. With these words we see that God desires all people to be His disciples the way that Adam and Eve were in the beginning and He has made that possible for all people. Through baptism, through the teaching of His Word, He makes more disciples. Through baptism and through His Word He makes us disciples.
For me this brings to mind the words of Psalm 8. Psalm 8 says,
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Compared to the rest of creation, the world, the stars, the moon, and everything else, human beings seem pretty puny and insignificant. That alone might make us ask God, “What is man that you are mindful of him and care for him?” But there is still more to it than that. Puny, insignificant human beings like us are also rebellious, violent, and evil. By all rights God ought to not care about us at all because most of the time we don’t care about Him at all. And yet, despite our wickedness, despite our sin, our God is mindful of us, He cares for us, He sent His Son to die for us.
You are a disciple, a follower, a student, a friend, a child of the Most High God, the creator of the universe, the sustainer of everything that exists, the Saviour of mankind, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
On Trinity Sunday we rejoice and marvel at the incomprehensible nature of God. Three in one and one in three. That is indeed a great mystery. Just as great, however, is the mystery of this God’s love for us. Though we are by no means worthy or fit, He has blessed us by making us His disciples.